The next afternoon, I have a late check-in at Downtown’s Mayfair Hotel (1256 West 7th Street. Tel: 213-632-1200. www.mayfairla.com). Opened in July 2018, this multi-million-dollar revival of the original 1926 Mayfair Hotel features world-class art and photography throughout, curated by renowned street artist Kelly “Risk” Graval. Famed noir fiction writer Raymond Chandler penned “I’ll Be Waiting” here in 1939. The hotel’s Eve American Bistro is named for Eve Chressy, a character from the short story, while the ballroom notably hosted the 1929 Oscars after-party.
My 10th floor corner room offered spectacular views of Downtown L.A.’s skyscrapers and the L.A. Live entertainment district. Painted gold by the sunrise, it was a cinematic start to my final day.
Breakfast was a 20-minute walk away at The Exchange (416 W. 8th Street. Tel: 213-395-9531. www.freehandhotels.com/los-angeles/theexchange), the ground-floor restaurant of the Freehand LA hotel. Introduced
in Miami by the Sydell Group, of NoMad fame, the Freehand brand uniquely offers private rooms and shared, hostel-style accommodations. The L.A. location updates the 1920’s Commercial Exchange building, preserving the original 12-story vintage neon, the largest “blade” sign in the city.
The restaurant is from Miami-based Bar Lab founders Elad Zvi and Gabe Orta, whose award-winning handcrafted cocktail concept, Broken Shaker, is on the hotel’s rooftop pool deck. Running the kitchen is L.A. native Alex Chang, who started out doing pop-up dinners while attending USC and worked in kitchens including Ludo Lefebvre’s Animal.
Of Mexican and Chinese heritage, Chang’s Israeli-driven menu was inspired by his experience touring Tel Aviv with Zvi. Topped with smoked salmon, my oversized Jerusalem bagel is an Israeli street classic. Other odes include salatim sharing plates of pickles, olives, housemade bread and accompaniments like my spicy Yemeni-inspired dip.
Another long-time L.A. staple, Korean BBQ, provided my finale that evening. Located in a large shopping center in the heart of bustling K-Town, E!ght Korean BBQ (863 S. Western Avenue. Tel: 213-365-1750. www.eightkoreanbbq.com/los-angeles) serves premium pork belly combinations, along with beef and other dishes. The namesake eight flavors include wine, garlic, ginseng, and red pepper paste.
Between the K-Pop videos and the chef cooking the eye-popping tray of pork, kimchi, and bean sprouts at my table, it was quite the show. Washing the feast down with soju, Korean rice wine, the best bite was wrapping the sizzling pork in thinly sliced pink radishes marinated in beets.
My family left L.A. when I was four. After returning for two years of high school, I left for good. I’ve visited sporadically since, but between nostalgia and unfamiliarity, I always felt disconnected. This visit felt like a true homecoming, though, leaving me with a newfound confidence about Los Angeles. Having Jonathan Gold as a guide was part of the magic. “He wanted to make Los Angeles smaller,” noted the New York Times in remembering Gold. For any visitor, that’s the surest map to follow.